Education Deputy Minister, David Namwandi has singled out Polytechnic of Namibia rector, Tjama Tjivikua as unco-operative and problematic.
In his well-publicised New Year’s address to his staff in the ministry, Namwandi said the ministry had no kind words to tertiary institution leaders who are allergic to co-operation and instead opt to discredit and demean others.
Namwandi, in a wide-ranging interview last week, repeated his statement that both Polytechnic and Unam are duplicating courses.
The ministry wants the two institutions to provide different courses so that Government does not waste resources but, Namwandi said, Tjivikua is not co-operating and he makes statements, which could infuriate Unam.
“I am not going to move an inch from the statement I made. It is a genuine statement with no ill intentions. Therefore, it is up to the institutions of higher learning to refute or confirm whether there is a duplication of courses or not. We have said it time and again that local tertiary institutions should complement each other and not compete against each other,” said Namwandi when approached this week.
His message to the staff was intended to serve as a wakeup call for the two tertiary institution leaders to improve relationships with each other.
“I would be very happy to hear that Unam and Polytechnic are co-operating in joint researches in Zambia, Zimbabwe or any other Sadc country and this is my challenge to them,” said Namwandi.
He further expressed that, “We should not run to institutions of higher learning outside Africa for collaboration while we have limited co-operation within ourselves. The Government has created a conducive environment for co-operation to occur locally and for someone to say we have failed to do that is really far-fetched.
“To me, there is no difference between foreign consultants and local academics; you may even find that some have graduated from same institutions. If it is proven to be true that the private as well as the public sectors do not have confidence in the services provided by local academics, then we need to urgently tackle it.”
The Rector of the Polytechnic of Namibia, Tjama Tjivikua rubbished Namwandi’s sentiments saying, “I do not know the foundation on which the deputy minister made that statement. As far as I am concerned, no tertiary institution leader in Namibia has been demeaned or has spoken negatively about another tertiary institution. And maybe the deputy minister needs to clarify himself on that.”
Tjivikua also said he does not see any competition between Unam and Polytechnic, adding that they are just doing what they are supposed to do.
He also said the ministry has failed to create a favourable environment for co-operation between local tertiary institutions.
“Institutions do not just co-operate for the sake of co-operation. There should be specific areas that you identify and come together to co-operate on. Most institutions collaborate on research but the Government has failed to create a favourable environment for such co-operation to exist by providing necessary funds.
“Co-operation is discipline-based as much as it is resource-based and before we sign any agreement, we always know exactly how the co-operation will be beneficiary to the institution and students and I am sure Unam also does that,” said Tjivikua.
He also said the Government is also stifling growth and expansion of local institutions by denying Polytechnic a university status.
“Tertiary institutions cannot remain stagnant as they will become irrelevant if they do not evolve and introduce new courses that respond to the needs of the market. In all senses, the Polytechnic of Namibia is a university and it should be given that recognition,” said Tjivikua.
The Polytechnic, he added, was the first institution to introduce engineering, hospitality and tourism management, nature conservation, surveying and town planning and recently, bio-medical courses.
He said other courses offered at Polytechnic similar to Unam’s were inherited from its predecessor and were never considered as duplications back then.
On competition, Tjivikua said there is nothing wrong with competition, arguing that there is no way Namibia can achieve Vision 2030 if the word ‘competition’ is erased from its vocabulary.
Unam spokesperson, Utaara Hoveka said, “In principle, we do have working relations with the Polytechnic of Namibia, though there is room for improvement. Our academics, for example, serve as moderators and external examiners for some courses at the Polytechnic. Our staff members have also presented papers at some of the institution’s conferences. We jointly co-organise the Annual Science Week event with the Ministry of Education as well.